Provisions exist to allow those who feel that they may have been subjected to discrimination on grounds of disability (as well as race and sex discrimination) to serve a questionnaire on the employer, to seek further information.
Using this system can have several benefits for employees and their representatives:
Questionnaires can provide evidence to support a case in tribunal, including details that might not be contained in documents that can be 'discovered' through tribunal processes.
Properly used, questionnaires are powerful tools - wrongly used, they can be worthless or, worse, that can give away important information to the employer.
A questionnaire can be served at any time following an alleged discriminatory act, up to 3 months after the date of the act being questioned.
Once a complaint has been submitted to a Tribunal, the questionnaire MUST be served within 28 days of the complaint being received by the tribunal.
If you wish to serve a questionnaire outside of the time limits, you will need to apply for the permission of the tribunal.
Following changes to the law in October, 2004, employers now have to respond to questionnaires within 8 weeks and tribunals can make inferences about a refusal to respond within that time or about evasive answers given to a questionnaire.
Getting a questionnaire form
Forms to use for questionnaires can be found on the Equality and Human Rights Commission website or can be obtained through Jobcentre Plus offices.
The standard form is in several sections. At the top of the questionnaire form is a space for details of who the questionnaire is being served on.
Think carefully about who to serve the questionnaire on - if you want to prompt senior HR officials to review actions taken at local level, for example, you may wish to serve the questionnaire on a headquarters address rather than the local office or line manager.
1. Section 1 gives the name and address of the complainant. It also lays out the types of discrimination that are being alleged.
Unless you are CERTAIN that a particular form of discrimination has not possibly occurred, do not delete it from the final questionnaire. Note also the LEGAL definitions of victimisation and harassment.
2. Part 2 is a narrative of the treatment received or the act or omission complained of. This is similar to the narrative section of an ET1 form. It can be helpful here to include details of why the employee considers themselves to be a disabled person. Ensure that all relevant dates and people involved are included.
3. It is possible to give reasons here for why it is considered that the issues identified in section 2 are unlawful, but usually it is best simply to delete the word 'because'.
4. Do not alter or add to this section.
5. Do not alter or add to this section.
6. In this section the questioner can ask any relevant additional questions.
7. If the response should be sent to the representative rather than the member, include their address here.
8. Sign and date the form. Retain a copy and send it on to the address in section 1
If you have already served a questionnaire before you submit your tribunal complaint, include a copy of the form and any reply with the ET1.
If you serve the questionnaire after submitting the tribunal complaint, send a copy of it to the Tribunal at the same time as you serve it on the employer.
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